Gianni Infantino [l] during a recent Champions League draw [Reuters]

One of the world's most respected referees has claimed UEFA rigs the draws for its European competitions to ensure the bigger clubs do not meet until the latter stages.

The accusation was made by Ahmet Cakar, a former international referee, on a popular television programme in his native Turkey.

Cakar claimed that "UEFA manipulated the draw for both the Champions League and Europa League". During the Champions League last 16 draw in December, the practice draw corresponded exactly with the real one.

The Turkish official also claimed that the football icons who carry out the draw carry metal objects in their hand which pick up vibrations in the balls as they bounce around the pot, and thus know exactly when to draw each ball to ensure the most exciting ties possible.

According to the former official, UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino was surreptitiously moving a lever next to the pot of balls during last week's draw, indicating underhand activity.

Those implicated in Cakar's accusations also include former England footballer Steve McManaman and ex-Newcastle United striker Patrick Kluivert, who presided over the respective draws last week.

Cakar, regarded as Turkey's most controverical football pundit, claimed UEFA rigs the draw to ensure the maximum possible interest in the semi-finals, and keep teams from the same country apart until the latter stages.

La Liga rivals Barcelona and Real Madrid were kept apart in the draw, both being paired with Paris Saint Germain and Galatasaray, while the German duo of Borussia Dortmund and last year's runners up Bayern Munich face Malaga and Juventus.

His claims echo those of Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, who has previously claimed UEFA manipulates the draw with the top continental clubs in mind.

UEFA has yet to comment on the accusations.